Wolverines push past Rutgers to remain in driver’s seat
Written by Matt Pargoff   

 

Coming off making the top-4 in the College Football Playoff ranking for the first time this year, not many Michigan fans were expecting a big challenge from Big Ten bottom-dweller Rutgers, and aside from a few early surprises, things went pretty much as expected. The Wolverines rotated players more liberally than in recent weeks, still pulling away to secure a 42-7 victory.

The Maize and Blue got punched in the mouth a few times in the first half, getting stuffed on back-to-back plays to end their first possession deep in Rutgers territory, then seeing the Scarlet Knights answer the Wolverines’ first score with an 80-yard rushing touchdown.

Rutgers racked up 193 yards on the ground against Michigan’s top-rated defense, surpassing any mark reached by the Wolverines’ last three ranked opponents. But while the Scarlet Knights had some success in that area, it came in inconsistent bursts that failed to spark longer drives. Michigan rattled off 35 straight points, gradually pulling away for the win.

Shea Patterson led the way for the Wolverines, completing 18-of-27 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns, hooking up with Nico Collins twice for scores.

Karan Higdon missed the chance to tie Mike Hart’s Michigan record with nine consecutive games over 100 yards, but eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season, carrying it 15 times for 48 yards and two scores. He rotated regularly with Chris Evans, who had 75 yards on six carries, and Tru Wilson, who ran it eight times for 58 yards.

Oliver Martin and Ronnie Bell also saw more action, with Martin pulling in his first career touchdown reception.

Improving to 9-1 on the season, Michigan remains in control of its own destiny, but will still face pressure to win out, given Ohio State’s win over Michigan State. The Buckeyes are likewise sitting at 9-1, but carry a conference loss to Penn State. Ohio State plays at Maryland next week, while the Wolverines host Indiana, likely setting up a showdown between the rivals for the right to play in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Michigan also has its eyes on bigger prizes, strongly in the running for the College Football Playoff. Given the importance of making a strong impression late, the Ohio State win could prove beneficial for the Wolverines in padding their resume, given that Northwestern secured the right to represent the East Division of the conference on Saturday despite carrying just a 6-4 record.

 
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